Big pecs are a sign of strength and make you look thick in clothes. But how can you get any growth? Here’s what you want to know.
To grow chest muscles at home, three workouts a week with enough volume can grow the chest even without equipment. The best home chest exercises are; All push up variations, floor presses and floor flies. With equipment, the dumbbell press and bench press are hard to beat.
Find out below what your chest muscles do and how to train them.
To be able to train and grow your chest muscles, we have to figure out where they are, how many there are and what they do.
There are two muscles in the chest:
- Pec major: The biggest muscle in the chest. It’s a fan shaped muscle that fans out from the upper arm (just below the shoulder and attaches to the sternum. It moves the arms in from the sides towards the front of the body.
- Pec minor: Smaller than the pec major and is located largely under it. It attaches to the shoulder and the ribs. It’s responsible for pushing the shoulders forward.
Those two make up the bulk of the musculature in the chest. There are a few smaller muscles around the chest that are important but don’t contribute much to the size. We’re here to grow the pecs after all.
All we have to do is apply resistance in the opposite direction of what the muscles do to train them. For muscle growth it’s best to perform 15-20 working sets per muscle per week. Working sets means it’s a challenging weight and doesn’t take warm up sets into account. For chest growth, sets of 8-15 repetitions is a good range. You want to end most sets with a few repetitions left in the tank.
Home Chest Exercises Without Equipment
Working out your chest is not too difficult without any equipment. There are a few great exercises with no equipment or stuff you can easily find around the house.
It’s the obvious choice and the right one for home chest exercises. The basic push up is a great chest and tricep builder for the pec major which is the largest muscle in the chest.
You start with a plank which means you rest on your toes and palms of the hands. Then bend the elbows and lower your body down until your chest almost touches the floor. Then push back up. Don’t flare your elbows out sideways. Your arms should bend away about 45 degrees from the body.
The pushup targets both the chest and triceps. To focus a little more on the chest put your hands further apart. If you want to focus more on your triceps, putting your hands closer together works.
In many cases, beginners have a hard time doing push ups the ‘normal’ way. It’s better to make it easier and get the full range of motion from the exercise than to just do half pushups. The best way to make pushups easier is to simply rest on your knees instead of feet. In case that is still too heavy, doing standing pushups against the kitchen countertop is a good way to get started.
The standard pushup is great and the basis of any home chest workout, however, there are some variations that are worth looking at as well since they do something slightly different.
Decline push up
To target the pec minor or upper chest a little better, the decline push up is a great exercises. Normal flat pushups mostly target the pec major but the pec minor is often a little lagging and is weaker to begin with. That’s why separately targeting the pec minor is a good plan.
The decline push up is quite similar to the normal push up except you put your feet on something elevated while the hands are in the same place on the floor. Of course because the pec major is weaker, this exercise can be quite challenging for many people. The higher you put your feet, the more difficult it’s going to be but the more you target the pec minor and less of the pec major.
So starting with a small elevation for the feet is a good idea if you’re not sure what you are capable of. Of course just like with the flat push up, putting your hands further apart tends to focus more on the chest and less on the triceps.
These are just some of the push up variations possible. There is a long laundry list of variations but most of them are derived from the two I listed here. Once you’re comfortable with them and want to change things up, take a look at this list of 82 push up variations.
OK, time for something else than a push up variation. While push ups are great and the most practical at home because you can do them anywhere without any equipment, there are other options. Although you’ll have to find some kind of weight for this exercise.
Dumbbells are the best but bottles of water are a good alternative although usually quite light. A heavy backpack can work if you hold it with both hands at the same time.
To do a floor press, you simply lay down on the floor with some weights in your hands. Keep the elbows on the floor, about 45 degrees away from the body. The hands are directly above the elbows. Now press up until the elbows are extended. Then return to the starting position.
If you don’t have a lot of weight available and want a more challenging exercise that’s not a push up, the floor fly is a good option. For this exercise you don’t need a lot of resistance and some 2 liter bottles are going to be enough for many people.
Simply lay on the floor on your back. Hold a bottle (or dumbbell if available) in both hands and extend your arms to the side so you form a kind of crucifix shape with your body and arms. Now keep your arms straight and bring your hands together above your body. Then slowly move back to the starting position.
You don’t need a lot of weight to feel a good contraction in your pec muscles. It will also probably burn out your pec muscles all the way so this is a good finishing exercise for your chest.
You might know this exercise but on a bench instead. This is also an effective exercise but you have to be a bit careful. The floor fly is a better exercise in my opinion but some people don’t like to be on the floor. On a bench, your elbows can go to far backwards than is good for them and it’s not too difficult to injure your shoulder this way. On the floor your hands/elbows can not go further down than your shoulders so there is a safety built in.
Home Chest Exercises With Equipment
If you’ve got some equipment at home, there are more options for exercises. The movements are largely similar since that’s the way you train your chest. However, there are minor differences and differences in how you load the muscle, both of which can lead to better training.
Most of these exercises require a bench and barbell or dumbbells although a set of resistance bands can also be used for most of these.
Barbell/dumbbell bench press
This is probably one of the most popular exercises in any gym around the world and for good reason; it works and looks cool. You need a flat bench and a barbell or dumbbells. Most people will have a bench and dumbbells so here’s how you do this exercise;
- Grab a pair of dumbbells
- Lay down on a flat bench while keeping the dumbbells close to your chest.
- Keep your back tight and shoulder blades together, position the dumbbells next to your pecs with the elbows flaring out from the body about 45 degrees.
- Push the dumbbells up towards the ceiling.
Incline bench press
To target the top of the chest, you can modify the previous exercise to an incline bench press either with barbell or dumbbells. For this reason it’s a great idea to get an adjustable bench if you’re shopping for gym equipment. An adjustable bench allows for more exercise options.
By setting the backrest of the bench to an about 45 degree angle or slightly higher, you target the upper part of the chest. I personally prefer to do the incline dumbbell press instead of an incline barbell press since I feel I get a better contraction with dumbbells. However, use whatever you’ve got available and feels good to you.
Once again, you need a bench and a dumbbell for this exercise. This exercise is both good for the lats and the chest. Many people feel a good contraction in the chest next to the sternum which can be difficult to get with other exercises.
To do a pullover, do the following;
- Take a dumbbell and wrap both hands around the handle. Holding the head is most comfortable.
- Lay down on a flat bench
- Push the dumbbell up above your chest
- Let the dumbbell go down behind your head while keeping your arms straight. Go down until the biceps are next to the ears.
- Then move the dumbbell back to above your chest.
You need a special dip attachment to your power rack or a power tower otherwise it’s hard to do them. Behind the back dips don’t target the chest so just using a chair isn’t going to work.
Dips train your triceps and shoulders but also the bottom part of your chest and some of the smaller muscles around your chest. Remember, what the chest does is bring your elbow from the side of your body towards the front of the body. This is exactly what you do with dips.
To do a dip, you need two parallel handles/rails perpendicular to your body. The handles should be about shoulder with apart or slightly more. Grab the handles and extend your elbows. Now let your elbows bend and your body sink down. Ideally you want to go down to a point where your elbows are slightly above your shoulders. Now push back up to the top and let the shoulders roll forward a little bit at the top so you get the best pec engagement.
This is not an easy exercise for beginners so go slow and take it easy. You might have to build up some strength in the shoulders and triceps before you can perform this exercise properly.
Home Chest Workout Example
Here is an example workout you can do for the chest muscles if you don’t have any equipment. You just need some bottles or jugs filled with water for some of the exercises.
You might notice the word ‘superset’ in the chart. That means you do one set of both (or more) exercises directly after each other before taking a rest. So you do 1 set of exercise #1, then immediately one set of exercise #2, take a rest and repeat. This helps make workouts more time efficient and less rest between sets can potentially result in more muscle growth. Do take a longer rest after finishing a superset.
Below you can see a workout schedule for one week. Three workouts in a week is a good way to grow your shoulders although two is enough if you’ve got a lot of other body parts to train. After doing this for 2-4 weeks you should start seeing results.
You can see the amount of repetitions goes up throughout the week. If you can’t get the amount of repetitions for the workout, try to get at least as many as last workout. If you can’t do the amount of repetitions on the first workout, do as many as you can and try to beat that amount next time and build up to 15 per set. After you can hit 15 repetitions on every set, you can add one or two sets to the exercise. After that you have to find more resistance either by wearing a backpack or with some weights.
|Home Pec Workout||Workout 1||Workout 2||Workout 3|
|1a. Push up||3×8||3×10||3×12|
|1b. Floor press (light weight)||3×10||3×12||3×15|
|2a. Decline push up||3×8||3×10||4×8|
|2b. Floor flies||3×12||3×15||4×12|